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Lake Erie & Western New York Fishing Hotline

March 27 to April 3, 2020

Fishing Under PAUSE

You can still go fishing under the Governor's PAUSE Executive Order. However, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we ask that you please act safely when fishing. If you arrive at an angler parking area that is congested, consider finding another area that is less crowded. When you're on the water, please make sure there is ample room between you and your fellow anglers. Don't share a boat unless it is large enough so that all persons aboard can always remain at a minimum distance of six feet apart. Providing ample distance helps to reduce the spread of colds, flu and COVID-19 and also contributes to an overall better angling experience. Good Luck Fishing!

Lake Erie and Tributaries

Steelhead fishing in the Lake Erie tributaries remained solid up through last weekend. There may still be some fresh fish around, but reports indicate that most remaining steelhead are actively spawning or drop-backs. Catches of suckers are on the rise too, another telltale sign that the steelhead run is, or is about to, taper off. Cattaraugus Creek is still a bit high, but fishable. All other creeks are slightly low to low, with clear conditions. Downsize lines, baits and flies, and move stealthily to fool wary trout. For those new to steelhead fishing, see the Steelhead Fishing in Lake Erie Tributaries page.

The Lake Erie boat launches at Barcelona, Dunkirk, Cattaraugus Creek and Buffalo are open. Launch docks are in place at Buffalo Harbor, but may not be at other launch sites. Launching at Sturgeon Point is blocked by a sandbar at mouth of harbor. Anglers are reporting good yellow perch catches at many spots between Cattaraugus Creek and Sturgeon Point in 52-65 feet of water, including some limit catches. There have been some unspecific perch catches east of Sturgeon Point as well. Reports indicate that small to moderate perch schools are slowly roving around. The key to a limit catch is to find a school and stay on them. Live emerald shiners fished just off bottom has worked best. Anglers also report some smallmouth bass and the odd lake trout catches mixed in. Inner Buffalo Harbor anglers are catching smaller yellow perch with the occasional keeper mixed in.

Niagara River

Emerald shiners are schooling in many harbors and marinas around the upper Niagara River, attracting yellow perch. Catches of some good sized perch have been reported in Grand Island marinas. Emerald shiners area available for dipping at marina/harbor sites and work great for perch.

Lower river anglers continue to catch good numbers of steelhead, with some brown trout and lake trout mixed in. The upper drifts and gorge shoreline have been most productive. Controlled drifting with three-way rigs and live shiners, cured shiners, egg sacs or trout beads works well for boaters. Be aware that walleye season closed on March 15. The New York Power Authority angler access (platform, stairs to shoreline and parking lot) typically open for season on April 1, weather permitting. For fishing access maps and lower river fishing information see the Fishing the Lower Niagara River page.

Lake Ontario & Tributaries, Harbors & Piers

Lake Ontario's spring shoreline bite is off to a good start. From the Niagara Bar to Rochester, trollers are picking up solid numbers of brown trout, with some steelhead, lake trout and the odd chinook salmon mixed in. Key on depths of 8-20 feet of water. Action tends to be better in slightly murky waters (not muddy) and in areas with slightly higher water temperature. Trolling with small to medium sized stickbaits or spoons run 75-100 feet behind planer boards is the top tactic. Spring casting at pier sites can also be productive for brown trout, as long as there is greenish water within casting range. Spoons and spinners are a good bet.

Steelhead catches are starting to taper off in the Lake Ontario tributaries, but there are still decent numbers of fish around in Eighteenmile, Oak Orchard and Johnson Creeks. Anglers are reporting more catches of suckers and the first of the smallmouth bass as well. Niagara and Orleans County streams are running low and clear at report time. Downsize lines and baits/flies to trick spooky trout.

Bullhead area available in harbors and lower sections of streams. Twelvemile Creek, Wilson-Tuscarora Harbor, Olcott Harbor and Golden Hill State Park are traditionally productive spots. Common bullhead baits include nightcrawlers, raw shrimp, chicken livers, dead minnows/cut bait and prepared baits.

Chautauqua Lake

There have been some non-specific reports of crappie being caught. Spring is the typical time for crappie to congregate in the canals and in the open lake near green weeds and structure. Small minnows or jigs with plastics or minnows are good bets for crappie. Bullhead are showing along shorelines, especially during low light periods. Nightcrawlers, chicken livers, raw shrimp and prepared baits work well. Visit the Chautauqua Lake page for more fishing information.

Inland Trout Fishing

Most inland trout streams are currently in good shape with moderate flows. Trout tend to feed more aggressively as water temperatures rise through spring and water temps are currently a little warmer than typical for late March. Check the Special Regulations by County to see what waters are open to trout fishing now. All others open for trout fishing on April 1. Western New York has variety trout fishing opportunities including Wild Trout Streams, Stocked Trout Streams and Stocked Lakes and Ponds. Public Fishing Rights Maps for many popular streams are available for printing.

Spring Trout Stocking

In response to Covid-19, Hatchery staff are stocking area waters as rapidly as possible. Though we are unable to supply you with specific dates for the 2020 trout stockings, we are making every effort to get all of our local trout waters stocked by the first week of April, or shortly thereafter. For lists of waterbodies with number of trout to be stocked, see the Spring Trout Stocking (2020) page.

Genesee River Angler Diarists Needed

The New York State DEC Region 9 Fisheries Office will be running an angler diary program on the Genesee River in Allegany and Wyoming Counties from March 1st through October 31st, 2020. This program will cover the river from the PA line downstream through Letchworth State Park and will record data for both trout and bass fishing trips. If you fish the Genesee River (even once) and would like to keep a diary for DEC please call the Region 9 Fisheries Office at (716) 379-6379 or e-mail at This diary program will be used to evaluate the quality of the fishery and determine future management actions.

If you need more fishing information or would like to contribute to the fishing report, please call or e-mail Mike Todd (716-851-7010; Good Luck Fishing!

The fishing hotline can also be heard at (716) 679-ERIE or (716) 855-FISH.